Here’s an interesting reel of opening credits and set-up sequences of the shows you were likely to see if you were watching TV in the late 1940s. Television had of course been around in various forms and incarnations for almost twenty years by then, but it was in 1947-48 that TV sets became more widely available and that programming via the four networks took off. It’s easy to smirk at the shoddiness of much of what you’ll see but it’s a bit like watching the first ‘talking pictures’ of the 1928-29 season; one has to imagine how astonishing it was to actually hear words coming out of the actors mouths. Similarly, seeing people performing for you in a box in your living room was thrilling in a way that we simply can’t comprehend now. The usual classics–Milton Berle’s ‘Texaco Star Theater’, Sid Caeser’s ‘Admiral Broadway Revue’ (precursor to ‘Your Show of Shows’), Perry Como’s ‘Chesterfield Supper Club’–are interspersed with shows that left zero mark on television history–Charlie Ruggles in ‘The Ruggles’? Olsen and Johnson in ‘Fireball Fun-For-All’? Technically, the shows are as sophisticated as the equipment they used–which is to say the quality is execrable. But the shaky early video vibe, if you embrace it, is part of the charm of time-traveling into televisions past, much as the static, unmoving camera staring at the actors-whose-shoes-are-glued-to-the-floor is part of the charm of watching early talking pictures. Perhaps the truly astonishing thing this reel shows us is that, technical advances aside, television programming hasn’t really changed much at all. People stare at you from a stage and sing; family’s have storylines built around their lives; comedians sometimes amuse and sometimes fall flat; self-important ‘quality drama’ co-exists alongside silly action shoot-em-ups. That’s entertainment…


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